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Anti-aging clinic owner sues Major League Baseball, claiming it ruined his business

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That lawsuit we mentioned yesterday was filed today. The plaintiff is a former minor leaguer, former training academy owner and former anti-aging clinic owner, Neiman Nix. He sued Major League Baseball in New York today alleging that it and its investigators ruined his anti-aging and supplement business via heavy-handed and, in some cases, illegal acts in the course of the Biogenesis investigation.

Nix, who was a 29th round draft pick of the Reds in 1998 but whose career ended early due to arm injuries, operated a Florida anti-aging and supplement business called DNA Sports Labs. Nix says that during the Biogenesis investigation Major League Baseball’s investigators — including those who were subsequently fired following allegations of unprofessional and possibly illegal conduct — threatened him and his business with criminal charges, spread false allegations about him and his businesses and claimed to others to be DEA and FBI agents in the course of doing so. Nix says all of this was done with the knowledge of and at the direction of Rob Manfred, who led the investigation on behalf of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball.

Nix further claims that MLB investigators hacked into and/or caused the closure of his company’s social media accounts, YouTube account and PayPal, which he used as his primary mode of advertising and payment, forcing them to be taken down and his business to subsequently close. Finally, he claims that MLB investigators falsely accused him of selling performance-enhancing drugs to major league players, which harmed his reputation and ultimately ruined his business.

Nix’s complaint alleges that this was not the first time MLB has messed with him. Before opening DNA Labs, Nix owned a training facility for unsigned players in Clearwater, Florida. Nix claims that in 2011, at the prodding of a disgruntled former employee, MLB investigators falsely accused him of claiming to employ real major league scouts in order to lure clients to his academy. Once this lie spread, Nix claims, it caused his business to tank and he had to sell his controlling stake.

Nix previously sued Major League Baseball in Florida in 2014 under many of these same facts. Nix claimed that the attacks on his social media accounts — accomplished primarily by MLB investigators falsely informing YouTube, PayPal and other services on which DNA Labs depended that Nix was associated with Biogenesis — took place in retaliation for Nix filing the Florida suit. That lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice. You can read the entire suit at the embedded link below. I would not expect Major League Baseball to have any substantive comment on the suit, if indeed it does comment on it at all.

As for the merits: it’s hard to say based on just a complaint. These things always turn on the facts, and presenting actual evidence is not the purpose of a complaint. It’s worth noting, however, that Nix is not the first person to accuse Major League Baseball and its investigators of misconduct during the Biogensis investigation and, again, its lead investigators on the Biogenesis case were subsequently fired. Moreover, going back to the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball has a history of closely associating itself with law enforcement and hiring former law enforcement officers in the course of what are, essentially, internal company investigations. It’s not crazy to assume, therefore, that at some point its investigators either created the impression that they were, in fact, members of law enforcement or allowed that impression to persist, much to their advantage. And, allegedly, in violation of the law.

The claims Nix asserts — tortious interference with business relationships — are often hard to win. But they’re not frivolous. The mud through which Major League Baseball trudged in order to nail Alex Rodriguez and the other ballplayers at the end of the Biogenesis investigation was pretty thick. It’s not at all shocking, therefore, that Major League Baseball is now accused of having a great deal of it on its shoes.

UPDATE: Major League Baseball has released a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“The lawsuit filed today by Neiman Nix against MLB repeats many of the same allegations he asserted in a Florida lawsuit that was dismissed in 2014. Mr. Nix’s new attorney, Vincent White, has in the past made outrageous claims about MLB. Mr. White’s purported source for this lawsuit is a disgruntled former MLB employee who was terminated for cause. Mr. White has been threatening to file this lawsuit for months in an attempt to coerce MLB into paying his client. MLB considers the allegations in this lawsuit, including the allegations relating to the hacking of DNA Sport Lab’s social media accounts, to be sanctionable under New York law. Other than noting that in Paragraph 40 of the Complaint Mr. Nix admits to selling products purportedly containing at least one banned performance-enhancing substance (IGF-1), MLB has no further comment on this frivolous lawsuit.”

Saying it’s “sanctionable” is a shot at the lawyer who filed it, saying that it was unethical for him to file the suit, not merely that the suit has no merit. That’s way beyonf the usual rhetoric you see. So buckle up, kids. This should be a bumpy ride.

Derek Jeter: no longer the media’s darling

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There was a time, not too long ago, where the baseball press practically gave Derek Jeter awards for providing them no information whatsoever. As a player, he turned not answering questions into an art form. To the point where, eventually, the press just stopped asking him substantive questions almost entirely.

Unlike a lot of players who shut out the media, Jeter did it rather politely, so he did not get that passive aggressive treatment — or, occasionally, the aggressive-aggressive treatment — the press often gives uncommunicative players. To the contrary. He was positively lauded for his lack of communication. Lionized, even.

Take this column from Jeff Peralman at CNN.com from 2014, under the headline “Derek Jeter: Baseball’s Humble Hero”:

Throughout the first 18 seasons of his career, Jeter has often been labeled “dull” by the media. His answers to questions are unimaginative and full of cliché baseball nothingness blather. In hindsight, however, such lameness is almost to be admired. We live in an era where too many athletes feel as if they need to draw attention to themselves — for confidence, for commercials. If you’re not tweeting trash talk, you’re texting trash talk. Or making bold promises. Or demanding money or respect . . . he’s a guy who merely wanted to be a guy.

How about this from the New York Times around the time of his retirement:

Jeter’s ability to maintain a posture of sustained inscrutability — or, if you must, dignified comportment — has extended especially to the spoken word . . . he has played his best defense in front of his locker: catching every controversial question thrown to him and tossing it aside as if it were a scuffed ball unsuitable for play.

In a major league career that dates to the Clinton administration’s first term — he is the only Yankees shortstop a generation of fans has known — inquiring reporters have gathered around Jeter in the clubhouse thousands of times. He has maintained eye contact, answered nearly every question posed to him — and said nothing. This is not a complaint, but rather an expression of awe; of admiration, even. His batting average and fielding percentage aside, this kid from Kalamazoo, Mich., entered the New York meat grinder two decades ago and came out the other end looking as sharp as Joe DiMaggio’s suit.

This opinion of Jeter was pervasive throughout his career, but especially pronounced at its end of it. Jeter was deified by the press for saying nothing to the press. Praised for making the media’s job harder by the media itself. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Times, however, have changed.

Some minor grumbling about Jeter’s non-answers to media questions began soon after he took over as Marlins co-owner. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote a column about it all back in October, saying Jeter’s “Crash Davis Rules of Media Relations don’t apply anymore.” Not too many people echoed that at the time, probably because it came in the wake of a pretty boring introductory press conference and the stakes were pretty low. I did wonder at the time, though, if the media was waiting to turn on Jeter once he actually started making moves in his new role.

I think we can now say the answer to that is yes.

In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, a lot of baseball writers had a lot of questions for Derek Jeter. Jeter, however, decided that he didn’t even need to show up here at the Winter Meetings to answer them, despite the fact that he lives just a couple of hours away.

On Monday morning Buster Olney of ESPN made conspicuous note of it:

Later in the day Jeter deigned to talk to the media via a conference call. As usual, he said mostly nothing, but unlike 1997, 2007 or 2014 (a) he got testy about it; and (b) the press made a note of it:

They likewise noted when he passed the buck to someone below him on the org chart:

Last night I think a dam broke, and I don’t think Jeter will ever be able to sweet non-talk his way out criticism again. It all happened at a football game:

To sum up:

  • Jeter is now bad for not talking to the press;
  • Jeter is not lauded for his composure anymore; and
  • Jeter is being called out as a poor leader who does not face the music.

What a difference a few years and a change of role makes.

All of which, one would think, would make me at least a little happy. I mean, I’ll totally own up to rolling my eyes at the kid glove treatment Jeter got back when he played. About how his attributes, however great, were elevated even above their actual greatness and how his faults were, perversely, spun into attributes. You’d expect that, in light of that, I’d be sorta pleased that the tables have turned.

I’m not happy, though. Indeed, I have something approaching sympathy for Captian Jeets.

Why? Because, while I’d like to see him face the press, defend his moves as owner and explain his vision to Marlins fans everywhere, I know that he cannot. I know that he has no good answers to any of the questions he might be asked because the real answer to all of them is “hey, we need to make money for the ownership group and everything flows from that” and that’s not an answer he’s prepared to give.

Have some sympathy for Derek Jeter. He’s really in a tough, tough spot. Even if he put himself into it.